#Spring #Soup with chicken #meatballs, leek and #Parmesan

A spring soup that combines tasty chicken meatballs with the sweetness of carrots, peas and leeks with the sharp saltiness of Parmesan. I used some quartered Brussel sprouts and spinach as well for a great result. It’s a great way to use up vegetables.

Prep time: 20 minutes Cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

Meatballs
300g chicken mince
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic pounded to a paste
Pinch of salt
Black pepper
1/2 small onion very finely diced
1 red chilli finely diced (optional)

Soup:
1 litre chicken stock + 2-3 cups water
1 leek white and pale green part finely sliced
1/2 onion finely diced
1 carrot grated
2 cloves garlic pounded to a paste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup of peas
8 Brussel sprouts quartered
Handful or two of baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
Salt and black pepper to season
Basil or parsley leaves for garnish

Method:

1. Combine ingredients for meatballs using and form into small meatballs.

2. Fry meatballs in a non stick fry pan until golden on all sides, for about 3 minutes and set aside.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in heavy based soup,or casserole pot, add onions and leeks and sweat over low heat until tender, add garlic paste and stir through.

4. Add stock and 2 cups water to leek mixture and bring to a boil.

5. Add meatballs, grated carrots, Brussel sprouts and simmer gently for 5-8 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through.

6. Add peas and simmer for 1-2 minutes until peas are just tender.

7 turn off heat, add baby spinach and allow to sit for a few minutes.

8 serve in bowls, sprinkled with Parmesan, chopped basil/parsley, adding salt and pepper to taste. (serves 2-4)

Noodle Soup with Thai Red Roast Pork

The weather in Sydney this weekend has been awful with very high winds and torrential rain. It feels like winter has really arrived. Of course this  is perfect weather for heart warming soups, roast and casseroles. What a great excuse for comfort food!

This soup is a perfect antidote to winter blues and just as good in summer as it has a light chicken stock base. You can really season this to your taste and leave out the fresh chillies if you prefer a less spicy option.

You will need Thai Red Roast Pork for this recipe which will extend your preparation time if you are making yourself and not “cheating” and buying it at your closest Chinese BBQ store. Same goes for the chicken stock – of course homemade is always nicer but if you don’t have time or any frozen in the fridge then store bought is fine. It is good to fry the finely chopped garlic to  a crisp; and also roast and crush the peanuts, so that is out of the way before you assemble the soup itself. Once you have these key ingredients in hand, everything else is a breeze.

Prep time: 15 minutes    Cooking time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:
2.5 litres chicken stock
300g of roast red pork thinly sliced
50 g bean sprouts
4-5  iceberg lettuce leaves very finely sliced
200g dried egg or rice noodles (I use fine egg noodles)
2-3 tablespoons fish sauce, depending how salty your stock is
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped and fried to a crisp
1-2 fresh red chillies chopped (optional)

Garnish:
choppped coriander leaves
2 sping onions finely sliced
dried chilli flakes
roughly chopped roasted peanuts

Method
Heat one tablespoon vegetable oil in a small non-stick frying pan and fry garlic until golden and crisp, take care not to burn. Remove with slotted spoon and place on paper towel to drain. (I make extra fried garlic to use as a garnish as well.)
Dry roast peanuts in a frying pan, then crush roughly in a mortar and pestle or roughly chop
Slice lettuce leaves, coriander and spring onions finely. Keep seperately.


Bring stock to a boil, then bring to a simmer. Add pork, sugar and 2 tablespoons of fish sauce, then add noodles and simmer for about 5-8 minutes until tender. Add fresh chopped chillies at this point if using.


Taste to see if additional fish sauce needed
Add fried garlic, bean sprouts and lettuce.
Immediately turn off the heat and serve in deep soup bowls and garnish with coriander leaves. Serve with other garnishes to the side.

Boston Legal Clam Chowder

Monday brought a snow storm to Boston and with it the perfect weather for soups and comfort food. We had enjoyed the milder weather over the weekend, making hay while the sun shined and walking the Freedom Trail learning about Paul Revere’s heroic ride to warn the Patriots of the approaching British troops and all about Boston’s contribution to American Independence.

But by Monday we were ready to hole up and take advantage of the weather to try out Legal Seafood down at the revitalised Seafront district for their renowned Clam Chowder. We had been assured by locals that despite being an ever expanding chain,the quality of food and service had remained and that this was the best spot to sample Boston’s acclaimed seafood.

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Located next to the fishermen’s pier and overlooking the harbour, Legal Seafood at the Seafront certainly puts one in the mood for fine dining, although more casual dining is also offered downstairs. This is by no means a cheap eats restaurant but at the same time prices for food and wine are excellent value for the quality and style.

We chose a Deloach Sonoma Pinot Noir, which little did we know at the time of ordering, was developed especially for Legal Seafood to go with their seafood centric menu.

Dinner started on a high note with the complimentary amuse Bouche sent by the chef.

The Clam Chowder certainly lived up to it’s reputation and was deliciously creamy – you can taste the sea in the freshness of the seafood ingredients. As a starter it is certainly filling but not heavy. Beautiful free breads were served at the beginning.

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For mains we tried halibut (rarely found in Australia), and of course lobster. The halibut was served with couscous,roasted fennel and aioli. And the lobster came with a parsnip puree, steamed kale, and one slow cooked beef brisket rib. Both entrees(mains) demonstrated a sophisticated approach to balancing flavours and tastes that “legitimised” for us Legal Seafood’s word of mouth referrals and food critic approvals.

The dessert menu was very tempting but we couldn’t fit it in so we settled for chocolates instead.

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A must try on you next trip to Boston.

Mussels in Thai Broth

An easy, healthy and delicious main courses or starter – can be served with crispy bread rolls or jasmine rice. Make sure you use fresh mussels. It’s all the better made using homemade Thai prawn stock(see recipe below) but bought fish or chicken stock will do if you are short on time.

Prep time: 10 minutes  Cooking time: 10 minutes
Ingredients:
1 kg of mussels, beards removed (do not use any broken mussels)
1 small brown onion finely diced
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
2 pieces ginger/fresh galangal finely chopped
1-2 hot red chillies chopped
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
6 coriander stalks and roots cleaned and chopped, leaves reserved for garnish
thai basil for garnish
750 ml prawn or fish stock
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Method:
Heat oil in large pot that has a tight fitting lid
Add onions, garlic, ginger and chillies and sautéed over medium heat until onions are translucent
Add coriander, stock, fish sauce and sugar
Add mussels, fit on lid and bring stock to boil.
Shake pan and check after 3-4 minutes, once mussels are open, garnish with coriander and basil leaves, and serve in deep bowls with soupy stock. (Throw out any mussels that don’t open)

Homemade Thai Prawn Stock
Ingredients
Heads and shells of 12 prawns
4-5 small pieces of galangal
2 pieces about 1 finger length of ginger
1 stalk lemongrass chopped
1 brown onion cut into quarters
4-5 coriander roots cleaned of any soil
3 cloves garlic
3 litres water

Method
Put all ingredients into stock pot and bring to a rolling boil
Simmer for an hour-1.5 hours
Strain to remove solids
freeze unused portions for use as a base in Thai soups and Curries

Javanese dining in Ubud – Warung Mendez Penestanan

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Display of spices at Warung Mendez

After a wonderful Christmas eating lots of delicious traditional English and Australian food, we are now in Bali for a fortnight of feasting and relaxation up in the hills of Ubud. There won’t be too much cooking but certainly a lot of eating planned.

We have been regulars to Bali over the last ten years and can’t help but feel instantly relaxed when we get here through the combination of the warm Balinese hospitality, heat of the tropical sun and diversity and quality of the food.

This visit we are staying in the village of Penestanan on the edge of the rice fields, once quite a sleepy part of Ubud but which has now been populated with great cafes and restaurants, spas and villas.

We started our first day here lazing by our pool before choosing to lunch at Warung Mendez, a restaurant specialising in Javanese cuisine. From tempting appetisers and soups to specials such as slow cooked goat’s leg and Tempe fried in a special spring onion batter, deciding on what to eat is not an easy task so we immediately ordered Bintang beer to cool us down as we made the tough choices.

Adrian often talks about Rawon soup which he had previously enjoyed in Jakarta. The dark almost black, beef soup is made that colour and given it’s unique earthy flavour from the use of the kelucak seed. It is traditionally served with steamed rice and chilli sambal, which is known as Nasi Rawon. At Warung Mendez, we ordered it just as a soup to shar alongside our individual mains of Nasi Goreng and Rica Rica Mackerel.

Rawon black beef soup at Warung Mendez
Rawon black beef soup at Warung Mendez

Whilst the Rawon soup was delicious, it felt like it had been “toned down” to suit the largely tourist palate of the diners that frequent the restaurant. However the nutty taste of the ground kelucak seeds did shine through and with the addition of some of the tasty homemade chilli sambal we had certainly would get Warung Mendez at least 3.5 stars for their version.

Of course it is difficult to pass by a Nasi Goreng or the Balinese version known as Nasi Campur when in Bali. The Warung Mendez version comes with the traditional fried rice, freshly bed chicken satays, pickled carrot, crispy shredded cabbage, a perfectly fried egg and prawn crackers. Adrian’s verdict is that it was “very nice”. We could see, smell and hear the rice being wok tossed and the stays being barbecued!

My Rica Rica Mackerel was not quite as I expected having had the more “tomatoey” Chicken Rica-Rica before. The Warung Mendez Mackerel version omits the tomatoes but features delicious grilled and then shredded fish mixed with the spicy chilli and shallot Rica Rica spice paste. The inclusion of small pieces of tangy Balines lime and the accompaniments of the fern and coconut salad and turmeric rice made for a light and tasty lunch dish.

Rica Rica mackerel at Warung Mendez
Rica Rica mackerel at Warung Mendez

All in all we would recommend Warung Mendez if you’d like to get an authentic taste of Javanese food in Ubud at an extremely good price. Our lunch cost us less than AUD$20. We will definitely be returning for dinner to try the goat’s leg and tempeh, and some desserts.

Snapper in Indian “Crazy Water” Broth

This dish is based on the Italian inspired recipes by Marcella Hazan and Neil Perry for “fish in crazy water”. Having previously made and enjoyed Neil Perry’s recipe, I had found the original light broth reminiscent of the texture of the South Indian soup known as Rasam that often accompanies meals. This version is of my own creation and includes the distinct aniseed flavour of star anise and the fruity sweet-sour flavour of tamarind. You can also easily play around with the combination of herbs and spices to suit your palette. This dish is perfect to serve with blanched spinach for a light and healthy dinner.

Prep time: 15 minutes  Cooking time: 55 minutes

Ingredients:
2 large snapper fillets with skin on
3 large, very ripe tomatoes
3 cloves garlic
3 red chillies
1/2 tspn sea salt
small handful coriander leaves
small handful mint leaves
1.5 tsp tamarind concentrate or 2 tspns tamarind juice
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 star anise
60ml olive oil
900ml water

Method
Place tomatoes in bowl of boiling water, then peel off skin, remove seeds and chop

 Soaking tomatoes in hot water makes it easier to peel the skin off
Soaking tomatoes in hot water makes it easier to peel the skin off

Finely chop coriander and mint (save half for garnish)
Finely slice garlic cloves

Sliced garlic, coriander and mint for crazy water
Sliced garlic, coriander and mint for crazy water

Deseed chillies and dice finely
Put all ingredients, except the fish fillets, into large heavy based saucepan and bring to a boil.

All the ingredients except the fish go into making the crazy water
All the ingredients except the fish go into making the crazy water

Lower heat and simmer for 45 minutes with lid on
Remove lid, return mixture to a boil and reduce sauce to half again, but ensuring some of the light broth remains
Add snapper fillets skin side down for 2 minutes, simmering over medium heat
Carefully turn fillets over and cook for a further 5-8 minutes until fish is just cooked through
Serve with finely chopped and blanched spinach or bok choy

Snapper in Indian Crazy Water served with blanched spinach
Snapper in Indian Crazy Water served with blanched spinach